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Is the sleep aid Melatonin the Answer to Your Insomnia?

Melatonin is a natural brain hormone. It facilitates regulation of the circadian clock (sleep-wake cycle). Supplemental melatonin is used by certain people who have trouble sleeping.


Supplementing with melatonin can be challenging. Its efficacy can be modified by dosing, timing, and ambient lighting. Questions about melatonin and when to take it for maximum effect are addressed below.


1. When is the best time to take the sleep aid melatonin?

One to two hours before bedtime is the ideal time to take melatonin. Since it takes melatonin some time to kick in, it's best to take it early so that it can do its job later.


You also shouldn't take melatonin after midnight. It takes melatonin 5-10 hours to leave the system. If you wake up less than 8 hours after taking it, you may feel lethargic.


The various types of melatonin have distinct effects. It may take some trial and error to find the best melatonin dosage and timing for you.


2. What exactly does melatonin do?

Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pineal gland. Melatonin production by the pineal gland increases with darkness and decreases with light. Melatonin aids in winding down and getting ready for sleep. Melatonin supplements may help with sleeplessness.


Supplements often contain synthetic melatonin. It's possible that melatonin helps you fall asleep more quickly. You might get more shut-eye if you take an extended-release pill. If you're traveling to a foreign time zone with a different sunset, using melatonin may help you adjust.


3. Can melatonin be used on a daily basis?

You shouldn't take it for more than a few weeks at a time.


Addiction is not brought on by melatonin. There is no risk of addiction or abuse because it is not a controlled substance. However, melatonin should not be used for extended periods of time. Before taking it for longer than a few weeks, talk to your doctor. There may be a more serious health condition preventing you from sleeping.


Melatonin has been shown by the vast majority of studies to not result in tolerance. Tolerance develops when the body stops responding to a drug which is commonly found in other over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids. Melatonin appears to be fine.


4. Does melatonin make you fat?

Melatonin has not been shown to cause weight gain. Even weight gain caused by some psychiatric drugs should be avoided. Another small study suggested that melatonin could aid weight loss in postmenopausal women. To what extent melatonin impacts weight remains an open question, however.


Obesity risk is known to rise in correlation with sleep duration. Maintaining a healthy weight may be aided by getting a good night's sleep using melatonin.


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5. Can melatonin affect blood pressure?

It has been widely reported that melatonin can reduce blood pressure. The blood pressure-lowering effects of melatonin may cancel out those of the medication. Although familiarity with this area of study is uncommon, it is nonetheless useful.


Low blood pressure causes fatigue and lightheadedness. Stop taking melatonin and see a doctor if you have these side effects.


The blood pressure medication nifedipine (Procardia, Procardia XL) may be less effective when used with melatonin. Never take melatonin without first discussing it with your doctor. It's possible that other sleep aids would work better for you.


6. In your body, how long does melatonin last?

The half-life of melatonin is only 1-2 hours. The half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of a dose to be eliminated from the body. Most medications have half-lives of about five hours, and it takes that long for the body to rid itself of them. After 5-10 hours, melatonin should have completely left the body.


There is a window of 8 hours between taking melatonin and waking up. By flushing it out of your system before you wake up, you can prevent the dreaded morning sluggishness.


7. What is the suggested daily allowance of melatonin?

Common dosages range from 3 milligrams to 5 milligrams. Beginning with a lower dose and gradually increasing it will help you find the minimum effective dose. This lessens the negative effects of melatonin. The maximum safe dose is 8 mg. However, it is not recommended to take doses that are known to produce serious side effects.


The typical dose of melatonin for a youngster is 1-2 milligrams. Dosing cautiously can help lessen any side effects. Before giving melatonin to your child, talk to his or her doctor. It's not a good idea to self-diagnose and treat children's sleep problems.


8. Is melatonin 8 mg safe to take?

Melatonin is a safe first-line sleep therapy. However, there are hazards.

Things to think about before taking melatonin:


Supplemental melatonin is not monitored by the FDA. Over-the-counter vitamins don't need as much testing as prescription medications. Studies show that over-the-counter melatonin supplements typically contain less of the active ingredient than is stated on the label. Serotonin is one of them. Pick reputable supplements to ensure your safety. Consult your pharmacy for advice.


Negative effects from using melatonin are possible. Melatonin's common negative effects include feeling sick or dizzy. It's possible to experience daytime sleepiness and severe nightmares.


Melatonin may affect the effects of other medications. It's easy to forget that over-the-counter vitamins can have drug interactions. Identical to melatonin. To be sure melatonin is safe for you, talk to your doctor about the other medications you're taking.

Long-term use of melatonin is not recommended. The long-term effects of using melatonin have not been studied. This is not recommended unless your service provider allows it.

Child puberty may be affected by melatonin. Children who use melatonin regularly may be able to put off puberty. More study is required to assess the severity of this adverse effect. It is best to consult a doctor before providing melatonin to a youngster.

Is melatonin affected by what we eat or drink?


9. Certain foods and drinks contain high amounts of melatonin. Some, like milk and tart cherry juice, are often associated with a good night’s rest. But there’s not a lot of research that the melatonin in them makes much of a difference.


There is melatonin in salmon, raw almonds, and mushrooms as well. Again, there is not a lot of information on melatonin absorption in these diets. However, if you're having trouble sleeping, adding them to your dinner menu can help.


Final Thoughts

Melatonin supplements help you unwind and get to sleep. Melatonin works best when taken two to four hours before bedtime. It can take the time it needs to soak in and activate. In addition, melatonin should be taken at least 8 hours before bedtime. Thus, you won't be drowsy the following day.


Common dosages range from 3 milligrams to 5 milligrams. You should talk to your doctor if you need to take it everyday for more than a few weeks. If you want to use melatonin, make sure you get a safe brand. Keep in mind that melatonin can have unwanted effects and can combine with other drugs. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you on the safety of melatonin.


"Thanks for the information doc, but I need more help!", there are a number of prescription medications that can help you with sleep.

Schedule an online appointment with Dr. Carlo Oller (board certified emergency physician) to discuss which option is right for you.


Key takeaways:


  1. Melatonin pills are helpful for relaxation and sleep.

  2. Melatonin is used by most individuals at 3–5 mg. Take it 1–2 hours before bedtime so it can absorb and function prior to use.

  3. Melatonin supplements lack oversight. How much melatonin you take is hard to determine. Find certified products or ask your pharmacist.

  4. Melatonin has adverse effects and medication interactions. Its long-term safety is unknown. Consult your doctor to determine its safety.



References

Arendt, J., et al. (2022). Physiology of the pineal gland and melatonin. Endotext.


Boafo, A., et al. (2019). Could long-term administration of melatonin to prepubertal children affect timing of puberty? A clinician’s perspective. Nature and Science of Sleep.

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